Thursday, May 12, 2016

May Author of the Month: Al Past

This month's featured author is Al Past, author of the series Distant Cousin. The first few books of this series were among the first I read on my Kindle in 2009/10 & I really enjoyed talking to Al about the interesting female lead, Ana Darcy. Since then, Al has written a couple more books in the series. Here's Al Past....

It's such a delight to be a featured author-person on eReader1. I've followed eReader1 for years and credit it for many of the Kindle tricks I happen to know. Not only that, Danielle reviewed my fourth book, Distant Cousin Regeneration, here! Now, she has graciously given me permission to tinker with the questions I've been asked. I'll jumble them together in the interest of discourse, but do my best to cover most.

What are you reading now?
It's embarrassing, but I'm rereading my Distant Cousin series, for the first time in a long time. I am doing this because I am preparing to write another in the series and I have to be as careful as I can to avoid continuity goofups. I occasionally consult previous volumes as I work on the next one, of course, but I find reading them front to back is a quite different experience. A high school librarian wrote me that she always wishes she could read them again for the first time. I now have an inkling what she means. In rereading, what stands out for me now is the sequencing of scenes, the pacing. For instance, I worried that one particular book did not hang together as well as I might have wished, but now, reading straight through it, I see that it does hang together. The humor comes through too, which is nice to know (since I wanted it to). 

Can you describe your typical writing day?
I was a college English professor for 30 years. My mantra that whole time was "Write for the reader! Serve the reader! Make it easy for the reader!" That is my philosophy, and my basic approach to writing. I made a career of critiquing writing, but  I didn't know if I could write something people might enjoy reading. A good friend convinced me to try the first chapter and that was how I began to find out: I can.
I write slowly. Carefully. A half page a day, after editing the previous day's half page. Then, later, over and over again from the beginning. Some writers blast through an entire draft and then go back and whack and rearrange massively. Not me, not so much. As an English prof, I was a professional editor, but even so, I make sure to have at least a couple "beta readers" with good taste and good ears.
How did you come up with your story idea?
Or to rephrase that as a reader asked it:  "The concept of Distant Cousin is so surprising. It seems obvious after a few pages, yet no other writer has ever used it. How did you come up with it?"
It came to me about ten years before I retired. The details would take pages, but the basic idea that the reader asked about is simply this: one day in our present time an alien from another planet lands on earth...but the catch is that the alien is human. She's from a group of people who were moved away from earth several thousand years previously, and she was the first one to find her way back. If you or I or anyone had met her we'd have assumed she was a crazy person. But she has information she really, really needs us to believe. So what happens then? And after that, what happens to her? The result, as daughter #2 says, is a "West Texas Chicano action/adventure/romance, with a little bit of science fiction."

Did you self publish?

Yes, I did, and I have no regrets, although I must add several caveats. In my particular case I have no skills as a promoter, no talent for promotion, and no inclination to promote my work very much. I'm a writer. That's what I enjoy. I'm a retired guy. I'm not doing this for the dough. Promotion, as far as I am concerned, is much harder than writing, and writing is plenty hard enough if it's done well. Besides, even if one publishes traditionally, the publisher still expects the writer to do most or all of the promotion.

So it's by pure dumb luck that a media agent in Hollywood, and his wife, loved Distant Cousin. It's of even more great good fortune that he has found an experienced screenwriter/producer who believes Distant Cousin will make a great a miniseries for TV. He's going to begin work on it next month, knock on wood.

But don't ask me for advice! Many people have congratulated me, adding that they "cannot wait to see Distant Cousin on tv," although they have not read the books and probably never will, even though they can have them right now for Kindle for the price of a burger, drink, and fries at McDonald's. Non-readers, or just lazy? I cannot say. Never mind. I'm a writer. That's what I enjoy.

I know several questions remain, but they seem for writers. I write for readers. (See above.) Nothing is more boring than a writer going on and on about writing--I should know. Everyone's different anyway. If any writers are reading this, good luck to you, folks!

Surprise us with something we don't know about you.
I played baroque trumpet (the little bitty high-pitched one) for twenty years. The first book I ever published was trumpet duets which I arranged from Bach's (and others) organ works, chamber music, and so forth. If you happen to play a treble clef instrument, Google Charles Colin Publications and search for my name. They're great duets. I quit the trumpet in recent years. I was afraid of getting an aneurysm and croaking on the spot.

And very importantly..... which do you prefer tea or coffee?


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